Do you keep a list of the books you’ve read? Books you want to read?
Yes! Goodreads is my jam. I was reluctant to join at first because it seemed just like Facebook for books. Then I realized that it was the solution to a problem I’ve had for a long time: electronic book cataloguing for normal people (i.e. not libraries).
When I was a kid (I can’t have been older than 10), I attempted to create my own electronic personal library database. I have absolutely no idea what program I was using, but I remember that it compiled all the information on virtual cards. It was a computerized version of writing everything on index cards and sticking them in a card box. This was in the days of Windows 95, so that was super cool. I have a vague recollection of also writing short reviews.
My virtual index card project quickly grew unwieldy. I think I gave up after a few weeks. In high school, I was inspired to go low-tech before unplugging was a thing, and I started just making a list in a spiral notebook with a red cover. I was in the tenth grade; I started with To Kill a Mockingbird. I gave my list of books the brilliant title “Book List” and kept track of each book’s title, author, and date completed. That lasted for years and years. I still have that notebook, actually.
Facebook became a thing shortly after I started college. I made a half-hearted attempt at using weRead in 2007, when it was only a Facebook application. It didn’t quite captivate me, although I did like the concept of “chucking a book” at a friend to recommend it. It was later acquired by an all-around retailer, so it appears that leaving was a good decision. I started using Goodreads instead (also as a Facebook application), and I haven’t stopped since.
Somehow, I knew that someday I would be able to just scan the barcodes of all my books and have a list of my complete library. I just needed to wait for the technology to catch up with my idea. Then I got a iPhone and the Goodreads app. Problem solved. I had my entire collection catalogued in minutes. One winter when I was home with my family, I scanned all the books I’d left there, too. My mom recently got rid of most of them, though, so I had to whittle my whole childhood down to a couple of boxes. #sadtimes #adulting
I have also found that Goodreads makes reviewing almost effortless. There’s a very simple 5-star system: 1 star for “didn’t like it,” 2 for “it was okay,” 3 for “liked it,” 4 for “really liked it,” and 5 for “it was amazing.” I struggle over 2 stars versus 3 sometimes, but the other definitions work for me. I also started writing reviews very quickly, because a short review is more helpful than none at all. Longer, more thoughtful reviews wind up at ATX Catholic.
A few weeks ago, I was doing an assessment of my online information storage and panicked thinking that Goodreads would suddenly disappear and take all my data with it. They have an export function, so I’m good now. I’ll just be refreshing my backup once a month. Goodreads might not last as long as that red notebook has.
For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.